Saturday, 23 August 2008
AS THE train pulls away from Tanjong Pagar, factories loom like skyscrapers and squat houses acquire an imposing air. Familiar sights turn foreign even before we cross the border.
Our journey across five countries has just begun. Inside the chilly carriages of KTM's Ekspres Rakyat to Butterworth, Mr Bean stumbles his way through gaffes on the Samsung flatscreen television as a family tucks into a breakfast of bread and apricot jam. Other passengers catch a nap on plush fabric seats before we hit the checkpoint at Woodlands.
It will be the first of four borders we pass in our bid to travel 5,000km to the edge of China via the route of the Singapore-Kunming Rail Link project.
A 13-year-old initiative of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean), the proposed rail network spans more than 5,000km across Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and China, and includes spur lines to Laos and a Vietnam port along one route.
We take 15 hours to reach the northern Malaysian town of Butterworth, before hopping onto the 20-hour Ekspres Antarabangsa sleeper train that cuts through the jungles of southern Thailand.
In a region where airports and shipping are an extension of national ego, the rail route gives us an unvarnished backyard glimpse of each destination.
At the Thai-Malaysian checkpoint in Padang Besar, a lopsided sign posts a lingering reminder of Thailand's more austere past: Aliens with a 'hippy characteristic' it warns, will be deported. The order is dated 1979.
Many of our fellow passengers are regulars on this cross-country route. Malaysian Leong Geok Lin, 44, for example, spends most of her time working with Thai orphans and survives on a RM400 (S$168) monthly allowance. The train, she says, is the cheapest way for her to travel between the two countries.
Two days later, on our third-class-only service 275 from Bangkok to the Cambodian border, the train fills up with villagers laden with fresh produce and Cambodian workers heading home. The migrant workers crowd around the rear wagons. Ms Sieb Saisieb, 38, is heading home for the yearly visit she has been making ever since she started work in a Bangkok plastic bag factory.
She says: 'Five years ago, I was a farmer in Sisophon town but I earned just enough to survive. In Bangkok, I can make 184 baht (about S$7) a day with overtime.
'Find me a job,' she implores, half in jest. 'I want to go to Singapore.' She gets off, like us, at the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet because the trains go no further from here.
THAILAND'S tracks are not connected to Cambodia's rail network, which lies in shambles after decades of war and inadequate funding. The country is the main missing link in the Singapore to Kunming railway network. It has about 600km of single meter-gauge track running from the inland town of Sisophon to its port of Sihanoukville via its capital, Phnom Penh.
There is only one passenger train service in Cambodia. It runs once a week, crossing some 270km from Phnom Penh to Battambang town on Saturdays and returns to the capital on Sundays. The trip takes 13 hours or more, about three times longer than by bus.
Just over 900 people took that train each week in 2005. These days, the figure is probably closer to 120, reckons train driver Leng Savath.
Catching that train entails entering Cambodia via Poipet, a town linked to Thailand by rail until the tracks were destroyed about 50 years ago. It is Cambodia's busiest land border crossing with Thailand now, though the constant traffic presents both promise and peril.
Trafficking syndicates send indentured children to beg across the border, while the influx of child sex tourists is apparent in posters pleading: 'Please respect our children. Do not harm or sexually exploit our children.'
Still, there is money to be made, whichever way you see it. Poipet's smoky, neon-lit casinos bustle with day-trippers from Thailand camped around its baccarat tables with bottles of Singha beer.
Just metres away outside, Cambodian barefoot porters pull wooden carts towards Thailand, where they will load up and lug back durians and mangoes, for 120 baht to 130 baht a day.
Among them is a 60-year-old woman who has tucked her eight-month-old grandchild into her cart for company. 'Sometimes I carry her, sometimes I put her in the cart,' she says, giving the child a pod of tamarind to suck on.
ABOUT 100km from Poipet lies Battambang town, which boasts of outskirts served by one of the most reliable 'railways' in the country. These consist of dozens of bamboo rafts powered by portable motors running on underused rail tracks improvised by the locals.
A 30km ride on the 'bamboo train' costs locals 5,000 riel (S$1.70). It leaves only if there are 10 people on board, or if the driver decides he is done waiting.
At Ou Dambang commune, a 10- minute drive from Battambang, we haggle with 24-year-old driver Sorn Thin, settle on a tourist price of US$15 (S$21), then hop onto the strips of bamboo nailed together to form the platform.
No handrails are in sight as we hurtle through the Cambodian countryside at 40km per hour, lurching each time its wheels hit the misaligned track.
These 'trains' transport everything from fuel and fertiliser to livestock to communities hard to access by road. Since dozens of bamboo trains zip about on one single track on any given day, there's a lot of give and take to make sure everybody gets to where they are headed in good time.
Heft, ironically, gets us to our destination faster because lighter 'trains' - by community consensus - have to be dismantled to let us pass.
But these lightning-quick calculations of who should give way are thrown out of the window when a real train suddenly chugs by. The lumbering giant loaded with logs causes a suspension of bamboo train services but presents an opportunity for extra income.
Out of nowhere, hordes of young men, women and children rush forward to haul the wood to the side of the tracks. A businesswoman haggles with an armed policeman guarding the wood, then hands over a stack of riel. An hour later, the train is almost emptied of wood, and continues on its bereft way to Battambang station.
The grinning porters pocket 10,000 riel each and promptly spend it on pong tea khon (fertilised duck eggs) at a roadside stall.
The train to Phnom Penh
IT IS not exactly news when the passenger train due to travel from Battambang to Phnom Penh doesn't show up. It has broken down - again.
We hitch a ride instead on a cargo train. It grinds along at a glacial speed of 10kmh on a track partially smothered under weeds. Beat-up motorcycles and buses zoom past us on a parallel highway.
In a dark wagon filled with boxes of Thai ketchup, milk powder and claw hammers, railway employees and businessmen swing languidly in hammocks they have brought along and strung across the carriage. These small proprietors, says train supervisor Kong Thom, have to travel with their goods to 'guarantee their safe arrival'.
The trains run so irregularly that our driver Leng Savath, 56, sometimes gets behind the wheel just once a month. Mr Kong Thom says: 'Most people working on the trains have other jobs. I help my wife to run her grocery shop in Phnom Penh. I do this trip only two to three times a month.'
The salaries are correspondingly low. Train guard Teuk Sophal, 46, earns 67,000 riel a month, and can only afford to live in an abandoned railway carriage by Phnom Penh train station.
Two hours into the journey, the train grinds to a halt. Engine problems. We get off with the staff for fresh air, while the driver does repairs. Half an hour later, we resume our crawl to Phnom Penh.
After six more hours of wobbling on ketchup box-seats, we get off at Pursat town to seek the comfort of an unmoving bed. The train, we later learn, arrives at Phnom Penh 166km away only in the wee hours of the next morning.
'The dream has wheels'
LATER, in Phnom Penh, we stumble upon the passenger train that we had meant to take, and realise why it is shunned by all but the poorest of locals. The carriage's wooden floorboard bears gaping wounds that give a clear view of the tracks beneath. Broken benches unscrewed from the carriage floor are heaped in one corner. Sunlight streams in through a rusting hole in the roof.
It may seem dismal now. But Cambodia's rail network is due for renewal if its government stays the course on one of its latest high-profile projects. The country started work earlier this year to rehabilitate and rebuild 650km of rail track after getting US$55 million in loans from the Asian Development Bank and Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Malaysia is contributing US$3 million worth of reclaimed rails. The plan is to reconnect Cambodia's railway to Thailand's, and, hopefully, provide safer and more comfortable options to the bamboo train.
Domestically, the project promises to take freight off the roads, reduce congestion and cut pollution at a time of soaring fuel costs. Regionally, it could give the Singapore to Kunming Rail Link plan - which has sputtered more than once due to its high estimated cost of $3 billion - a shot in the arm.
Once Cambodia completes its rail project by 2011, all that would stand between a single uninterrupted rail route from Singapore to Kunming within Asean's borders would be a missing 400km section between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. China, on its part, has already started rebuilding its century-old rail link to north-western Vietnam, which forms the tail end of the route.
The regional rail network is crucial in bringing the young economies of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam up to speed with Asean's more affluent members and to pave the way for a genuine Asean economic community, says Asean watcher Denis Hew.
Mr Barry Cable, director of the transport and tourism division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, says developing the railway sector will diversify development away from coastal areas.
It could also mean more. British current affairs magazine Monocle calls rail connections 'a hopeful sign of stability' as the existence of regular, scheduled rail services between countries are more powerful symbols of integration than disparate roads or air links.
It is a sign that is sorely needed now, as Cambodia and Thailand bicker over the ownership of the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on their shared border.
Crucial motivation to close the rail gap between Vietnam and Cambodia will come from the success of the current Cambodian project.
ADB Cambodian director Arjun Goswami says: 'As a vision, I love the idea of the (regional rail link). If we get the Cambodian project done, we can say the dream has legs, or should I say, wheels.'
Cambodians like security guard Mey Chea, 31, cling to that dream. He says: 'In the future, our trains will be like the ones in China we see on TV. They will be comfortable, efficient and modern.'
As investors poise to spend billions making Cambodia’s undeveloped coast the next hotspot for sunseekers, human rights groups fear that violent and illegal mass evictions will increase to make way for the resorts and supporting infrastructure.
(PHOTOGRAPH: Villagers’ houses burn during the forced eviction of approximately 105 families at Pram Muoy Village, Mittapheap 4, near Sihanoukville, April 2007. Photograph by David Pred.)
Land-grabbing is reportedly rife in a country still recovering from the devastation of the Khmer Rouge regime and conflict with neighbouring Vietnam. In February this year Amnesty International estimated that 150,000 people around the country were at risk of forcible eviction as a result of land disputes, seizures and new development projects.
As investors prepare to turn Cambodia’s undeveloped coastline into the next big Asian holiday destination, civil society organisations say the housing and land rights of residents are being trampled on.
The plans for development are significant. A recent example came to light on August 17 when Cambodian conglomerate Royal Group told the Financial Times newspaper it was raising US$2 billion from private investors, together with Hong Kong-based Millennium Group, to develop Koh Rong, an island nearly the size of Hong Kong off the coastal municipality of Sihanoukville.
At nearly 8000 hectares and largely forested, the scope of the development would be huge and would likely require an airport. According to one press report the Cambodian government will not release figures of how many people live on the island, though it has conducted a census there.
The Financial Times also reported that MPDI, a subsidiary of Seng Enterprise, one of Cambodia’s leading construction companies, is working on another US$2bn project with unnamed US, Japanese and Middle Eastern investors to triple the size of Kep, a neglected former French colonial resort. The paper reported that land along a 6km stretch of coastline will be reclaimed and luxury towers and bungalows will house about 10,000 families.
Dan Nicholson, Asia Pacific coordinator for the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), told iCON his organization had “grave fears” about the rights of people living in areas pegged for development.
“We hear many reports about proposed tourist developments around the coastline. Some estimates are that 45% of the country has been sold off in various forms to developers, mainly coastal areas and islands.
“Evictions in Cambodia are frequently carried out violently, with no regard to the human rights of those affected, and in violation of Cambodian law. Military police are often used, even though this is illegal. Very often those evicted in fact have legal rights to the land, under the 2001 Land Law, but this is ignored by a corrupt judiciary and government.”
In one case in April last year soldiers and police armed with guns and electric batons violently evicted approximately 105 families from Pram Muoy Village near Sihanoukville to back a claim of ownership by the wife of a local high-ranking official. Houses were burnt to the ground and 18 villagers and two police were injured.
“More than a year later,” Nicholson said, “the community is living along the road, adjacent to their old land, under tarpaulins in conditions resembling an IDP (internally displaced person) camp. The land has been fenced off but remains unused.”
The issue of land ownership in Cambodia is murky at best. Rhodri Williams, an international expert on housing rights, notes that traditionally in Cambodia title was established through cultivating the land, and lost when it fell into disuse. The French, who colonized Cambodia in the mid-1800s, tried to move from use-based to title-based ownership but this didn’t take root much outside the cities.
In 1975 any question of who owned what became academic when the Khmer Rouge launched a programme of wholesale agrarian collectivization that emptied the cities and forced the population to work on farms. The Khmer Rouge fell in 1979 but it wasn’t until the mid 1980s that the government de-collectivised land and property. It then began granting concessions to private companies to exploit natural resources, but it fell to local authorities to administer this process and corruption was rife.
Cambodia’s 300-mile coastline has never been heavily populated but after the mass uprootings during the Khmer Rouge era, in which an estimated fifth of the population was killed, people began settling there because their own towns and villages had been destroyed. They supported themselves by fishing, subsistence farming or running small businesses.
In the 90s the central government in Phnom Penh designated the entire coast and its islands as State Public Land that could not be bartered or developed.
According to an article in the Guardian newspaper (See “Country for sale”, 26th April 2008), by 2006 these coastal communities had schools, political representation, and many householders even had papers, stamped by the Sihanoukville governor, Say Hak, which guaranteed them the permanent right to stay under the 2001 Land Law.
But in July 2007, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, of the Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP), changed the designation of the southern islands so they could be sold.
“By March this year,” wrote the authors of the Guardian article, “virtually all Cambodia's accessible and sandy coast was in private hands, either Cambodian or foreign. Those who lived or worked there were turfed out - some jailed, others beaten, virtually all denied meaningful compensation. The deals went unannounced; no tenders or plans were ever officially published.
All that was known was that more than £1,000m in foreign finance found its way into the country in 2007, a 1,500% increase over the previous four years.”
Dan Nicholson of COHRE told iCON that under international law, evictions should only be carried out in exceptional circumstances, and when all feasible alternatives have been explored with the communities. He said that where evictions are justified there must be adequate consultation and notice and the evictions must be humane. Evicted communities should be compensated for their losses, and provided with adequate alternative housing.
“Although Cambodia has ratified the major international human rights treaties, there is currently no law regulating eviction here,” he said. “Domestic laws are in any case frequently ignored by government, police and courts to push through development projects, including tourist development.
“Everyone can see the potential for Cambodia to develop a stronger tourist industry. However, it is essential that this doesn't happen at the expense of the housing and land rights of local communities. Current signs are not good.”
Cambodia lost no time issuing an official response to both the Guardian article and the Amnesty International report. In a letter to the Guardian, Cambodia’s ambassador to the UK, Hor Nambora, accused the paper of trying to discredit the ruling CPP in the run-up to July’s general election, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen was returned to office.
The ambassador (see www.cambodianembassy.org.uk) did not refute the article’s specific assertions but recalled the country’s difficult past and said the government doesn’t ignore “the tactics used by some foreign companies”. He went on to claim that “All applications to buy land are carefully scrutinised by the Cambodian Investment Board which is committed to ensuring that the rights of the Cambodian people are not infringed.”
To Amnesty International, Hor Nambora wrote countering that the government planned to distribute concession land to some 10,000 poor families in the provinces and cities as part of a Land Allocation for Social and Economic Development (LASED) Project for 2008.
He also said Cambodia is committed to improving governance and is working with the World Bank, the EU, UK and Japan, who together provided US$70m to help reform public financial management, private sector development, natural resource and land management from 2007 to 2010.
However expert Rhodri Williams told iCON that this may be just a smokescreen.
“The problem,” he said, “is that the international cooperation tends to focus on lengthy drafting processes for laws and by-laws and programs, et cetera, that are so rarely implemented on the ground that it is hard to avoid the inference that they are little more than a diversion.
“Meanwhile, development is clearly going on, but taking place in a manner that tends to be to the detriment of all but the rich and connected.”
He added: “The World Bank has pointed out that other countries in the region (such as Vietnam) have managed to achieve equitable growth in a manner that benefits society as a whole and contributes to a far more sustainable form of stability than the CPP’s mix of repressive political tactics and short-sighted economic rapaciousness.”
Well - this is one:
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 574
“Phnom Penh: The US Ambassador to Cambodia criticized Cambodian politicians who mostly do not put the interest of the nation and of the people as their highest priority, but they enter politics just because they want positions. Moreover, he said that it is necessary that opposition parties in Cambodia unite to become one force to compete with the ruling party.
“During an interview with Rasmei Kampuchea, Mr. Joseph Mussomeli said, ‘Few Cambodian politicians whom I met had dedicated themselves to help the Cambodian people; too many politicians are only interested in the positions they can get.’
“He added that the problem is that they do not think that they have to serve the Cambodian people. Although similar problems exists also in the United States, Mr. Joseph thinks that the problem is more serious in Cambodia than in the United States. He went on to say that it is important for Cambodia to have a sufficiently independent justice system to arrest corrupt people, and especially also politicians, to be convicted according to the law.
“An observer said that just a few months ahead of the elections, many Cambodian politicians left the Sam Rainsy Party to join the Cambodian People’s Party, causing almost a breakup among opposition party members. Those politicians had left to take up some [already promised] important positions in the government, such as secretary of state, undersecretary of state, or government advisor, making it difficult to protect their claim that they had changed their political party because they think of the interest of the nation as their highest priority.
“As for Cambodian politics in general, the US Ambassador thinks also that there are too many different opposition parties. He continued to say that as long as Cambodia has five or six opposition parities, they cannot compete with the ruling party. He said they should form an alliance, adding, ‘One opposition party will be stronger [than many opposition parties] and will gain strong attention from the Cambodian people.’
“Ms. Chea Vannath, a political observer, said that to unite or not is not a problem. Nowadays, opposition parties do not have enough to say to oppose decisions made by the ruling party. She said also that at present, Cambodia does not have a real democracy yet, because of a ruling system that upholds partisanship, is built on personal links of friendship and on familial relations, which needs to be cut down in order to promote new [qualified] people.”
Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4674, 22.8.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Friday, 22 August 2008
22 August 2008
Khmer audio aired 21 August 2008 (5.16 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 21 August 2008 (5.16 MB) - Listen (MP3)
Gout is a common inflammatory arthritis that can lead to intense joint pain, but it can be potentially be avoided by proper eating, a doctor said Thursday.
The disease is caused by a high level of uric acid in the blood, which can come from certain foods, such as organ meats, like liver, or anchovies, said Dr. Taing Tek Hong, as a guest on "Hello VOA."
Gout affects 1 percent to 2 percent of adult men, and nine times as many men as women, he said.
"It causes intense joint pain, usually of the big toe, at night," he said. "Risk factors include obesity, family history of gout, male sex, women after menopause aged over 40 to 50, excessive alcohol intake, especially bear" and others.
Medical conditions such as hypertension and diabetes can also lead to gout, he said.
The disease can show up as nodules under the skin, or as kidney stones, and acute gout can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
"To prevent recurrent attacks, patient should avoid alcohol, especially beer, cut back on red meat and organ meats, like kidneys and hear, anchovies, sardines, mussels, sweet breads and sea food," Taing Tek Hong said. "Low fat dairy products, ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, and wine consumption appear to be protective."
Original report from Washington
22 August 2008
Khmer audio aired 21 August 2008 (1.76 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 21 August 2008 (1.76 MB) - Listen (MP3)
Khmer Rouge tribunal prosecutors issued an appeal to the investigating judges' order for jailed prison chief Kaing Kek Iev, claiming the order did not charge him for a number of crimes.
Investigating judges issued their closing order, which includes indictments of the defendant, earlier this month, and the appeal by prosecutors will mean a revision of the order and a further delay of a trial for the defendant, better known by his revolutionary name, Duch.
Duch, 65, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role as the director of Tuol Sleng, known by the Khmer Rouge as S-21. He has been in the custody of military courts and the tribunal since 1999.
In a statement released Thursday, tribunal prosecutors said the judges' order "does not charge Duch for his responsibility, as co-perpetrator, for a significant number of crimes that occurred as part of a joint criminal enterprise inside S-21."
Tribunal co-investigating judge You Bunleng said Thursday the appeal will delay Duch's trial, but he was confident his investigation was complete.
The appeal would be up to the Pre-Trial Chamber to consider, he said.
Long Panhavuth, a project officer for the Open Society Justice Initiative, which is monitoring the tribunal, said it the Pre-Trial Chamber, in general, must consider the rights of the accused, but they could also expedite the process to move toward a trial.
Hisham Mousar, a tribunal observer for the rights group Adhoc, said the Pre-Trial Chamber could take "quick action" to rule on the appeal, but "slow action" could take as long as two months to decide.
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 August 2008
Khmer audio aired 22 August 2008 (869 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 22 August 2008 (869 KB) - Listen (MP3)
Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday sentenced three Taiwanese citizens between 12 and 20 years in prison for their involvement in the export of more than 1.2 kilograms of heroin from Cambodia.
Huang Chih Huang, 34, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined 60 million riel, or about $15,000. Lin Hui Min, 17, and Wu Chia Hsun, 16, both women, received 12 years and fines of 40 million riel, about $10,000, each.
The three are being held at Prey Sar prison, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, following their arrest in December 2007 at Phnom Penh International Airport, when police confiscated heroin packets hidden under their clothes.
"The three confessed that they were hired to bring heroin from Cambodia to Taiwan," court deputy prosecutor Sok Kalyan said. "They are poor, and they did that for money."
Lawyers for the three were not available for comment.
Center for Social Development court monitor Hang Charya said the three had confessed to transporting the drugs for money.
Lor Ramin, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said Friday that police were so far only able to arrest people who are hired to transport the drugs, instead of breaking up the organized crime network involved.
Police are continuing the investigation into the drug network, but would require help from Interpol, Lor Ramin said.
Taiwanese groups committed some of the most drug trafficking in Cambodia, he said.
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 August 2008
Khmer audio aired 22 August 2008 (1.18 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 22 August 2008 (1.18 MB) - Listen (MP3)
Cambodian military and defense officials completed a weeklong regional counterterrorism workshop Friday, joining US military officials as well as regional authorities to strengthen cooperation in anticipation of future oil exploration.
"We are ready to cooperate with the international community, as in 2011, Cambodia expects to begin oil production with Chevron," Brig. Gen. Nguon Sam, deputy chief of the legal department of the Ministry of Defense, said. "We are responsible of the security of the transportation of oil from Cambodia to other countries."
Cambodia's naval capacity remains limited, he said. "So we have asked for international cooperation to fight terrorism."
Government representatives from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka joined in the talks, which were held at the Sunway Hotel near the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.
"What we tried to do is help them understand what the legal challenges are, how they can assist in collecting evidence and how they can assist in covering terrorism and fighting terrorists and bringing them to justice," said Lt. Col. Jon Shelburne, a US Marine Corps reservist who lectured at the seminar.
Cambodia has emerged as a willing partner in the US's regional war on terror, following reports in 2003 that the mastermind of the Bali bombings had stayed in Phnom Penh prior to his arrest in Thailand.
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 August 2008
As a trial for jailed prison chief Duch draws nearer, teams for the Documentation Center of Cambodia will begin searching for some 170 survivors of Tuol Sleng prison.
The center's director, Youk Chhang, said Friday about 177 prisoners were released from Tuol Sleng, which was headed by Duch, between 1975 and 1977.
In finding survivors of the prison, the center hopes to bolster the cases against Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, for civil parties in the case.
The idea for the search stemmed from an indictment of Duch that was issued earlier this month that did not mention the survivors.
"What is the reason that the co-prosecutors did not include this case in the closing order of Duch?" Youk Chhang said. "Then we thought, we will do historical research, and we want to know further why 177 prisoners were released."
According the center, the prisoners were arrested from Kampong Thom, Kandal, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, and other provinces, and then released, between 1975 to 1977.
Some of them were accused of links to the CIA, while others stood accused of loving a forbidden partner. Other charges included attempts to steal the motorcycles of Khmer Rouge cadre and other infractions against the secretive regime.
"In the closing order, co-investigating judges did not mention this, and it seems that in the closing order all people who were detained have been killed," Youk Chhang said. "Indeed, some of them were released."
The center will begin sending teams into the provinces next week in search of the survivors, in hopes of interviewing them and learning why they were released. Documents indicate they were released at the recommendation of other Khmer Rouge cadre.
Co-investigating judge You Bunleng said Friday the center had a right to investigate.
"This is their affair. I cannot give further comment before the plenary trial," he said, adding that investigating judges do not give full details of the csae in their closing orders.
Some documents of the center have already been used by civil party and defense lawyers.
"We think that all the work of NGOs that provides interest in the [tribunal] will provide interest to our citizens," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said.
Only 10 Tuol Sleng survivors have so far been discovered, and most of those have already died.
PHNOM PENH, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- A peaceful settlement of the 39-day-long military stalemate against Thailand at the border areas can be expected in the near future, said Prime Minister Hun Sen ina letter addressed to his Thai counterpart Samak Sundaravej here Thursday.
"I have full confidence that the meeting of the Cambodian-Thai Joint Border Commission (JBC) in early Oct. 2008, followed by the next meeting of the two foreign ministers, will bring about a peaceful settlement to the border issues not only in Preah Vihear Temple area, but also the entire border region between Cambodia and Thailand," he said in the letter issued here Friday to media organizations by the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
"I sincerely hope that the second meeting between the head of the Cambodian Contemporary Coordinating Task Force and the head of the Thai Regional Border Committee on Aug. 29, 2008, as agreed during the second foreign ministers' meeting in Hua Hin province of Thailand on Aug. 18-19, will result in removal of all the remaining troops at the areas around the Preah Vihear Temple and cessation of all military build-up in other border areas," he said.
"I am extremely pleased that you share my views that our two countries can resolve this issue in a peaceful and amicable manner, as we continue to cherish our long lasting friendship and good neighborliness," he added.
During the meeting on Aug. 18-19, Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers agreed to arrange a second-phase troop redeployment at the disputed border area near the Preah Vihear Temple in the eponymous province of Cambodia.
Both sides will convene a meeting between the Head of the Cambodian Temporary Coordinating Task Force and the Head of the Thai Regional Border Committee on Aug. 29 in Cambodia to discuss the second-phase of redeployment.
The two foreign ministers also agreed to recommend to their governments that the next meeting of legal experts and the Thai-Cambodian JBC be convened in early Oct. 2008 to discuss the issues related to the survey and demarcation of the relevant sectors under the term of reference and master plan of the JBC.
On July 15, Thai troops went into the border area to fetch three trespassers who had intended to claim Thai sovereignty over the Preah Vihear Temple. However, the troops stationed there ever since, thus triggering the military standoff and propelling both sides' military personnel to grow over a thousand in the border areas.
During the time, Thai troops respectively entered the Keo SikhaKiri Svara Pagoda, which is constructed on the only way leading to the Preah Vihear Temple, as well as the Tamone Toch and Tamone Thom temples in neighboring Otdar Meanchey province of Cambodia.
On Aug. 16, most of the troops at the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda and within the surrounding area of the Preah Vihear Temple were evacuated according to both sides' agreement.
The Preah Vihear Temple straddles the Cambodian-Thai border atop the Dangrek Mountain and was listed as a World Heritage Site on July 7 by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.
In 1962, the International Court of Justice decided that the 11-century temple and the land around belong to Cambodia, which rankled the Thais and has led to continuous disputes.
Editor: Bi Mingxin
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (CNN) -- Without proper food, shoes, or support from his government, Hem Bunting, the Cambodian Olympic marathon competitor, prepared for the Olympics and hoped for international support in late July.
"It is hard to compete at an Olympic level when you do not get any support from the government," panted Bunting, 25, who had just run intervals on the bleachers of the dilapidated Olympic stadium in the capital.
A week before the four Cambodian athletes were scheduled to attend the opening of the Olympic Games, the President of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, Dr. Thong Kohn, appealed to all companies, suppliers, and donors for the $18,423 needed to send the four athletes and 10 supporters to the games in Beijing. The list included funds for shoes, Olympic uniforms, and pocket money.
A representative of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia said there was insufficient money for sports. Programs for sports would develop as education in the country improved.
"We need to improve and reform several sectors in Cambodia's education programs," explained Sambath Sothea, who is in charge of the Sports Marketing Program for the Cambodian Olympic Team.
"Part of this improvement should be in sports education, which is an important part of the personal development of young people who are the future of our nation. People have the tendency to forget Cambodia is a nation on the rise and need to give it some time to grow."
Once referred to as the Pearl of Asia, Cambodia's sports programs, economy, and infrastructure were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge reign, where it is estimated that 1.5 million people were killed between 1975 and 1979. The country has only now begun to emerge on the global market, with the country's first stock exchange scheduled to start in 2009.
Bunting believed the only way sports would develop was through private donors.
"If we could get sponsored, we could go somewhere with sports in Cambodia, but the government is not going to support us because they are busy with other things," said the runner, whose best marathon time of 2 hours 26 minutes, 28 seconds placed him second at the Sea Games, a competition held among South East Asian countries.
"I work really hard but do not even have the basic things I need, like nutritious food to eat or clothes for training." Bunting ran on the busy streets of the capital without proper running shoes until the American New Zealand Bank (ANZ) sponsored him.
Sothea believed the partnership between the public and private sector was critical for the development of sports in the country.
"The government needs to reform sports and give it a more reliable structure," said Sothea who earned his law degree in France. "The private sector will be responsible for making investments."
In wake of the recent elections held in the country, which ushered in relative peace and political stability, major investment companies have flocked to Cambodia. Some of these investors considered sports a potential investment opportunity.
"From supporting the training and finances of an Olympic athlete to building industrial parks and helping Cambodia become a leading rice exporter, we want to invest in areas that Cambodians take pride in," said Marvin Yeo, the co-founder of Frontier Investment Partners.
Yeo's firm planned to devote over $250 million to an array of areas, which include real estate, infrastructure, manufacturing, and agriculture throughout the next decade.
Another investor was also hopeful about Cambodia's future.
"The next five years will be the time investment takes off in Cambodia and the country starts to put itself on the map," explained Douglas Clayton, founder of Leopard Capital, which manages a private equity fund that invests in Cambodia. "You will see a major change in the country, and things like sports, which have been overlooked because of the lack of government support, may start to receive some funding from the private sector."
From farming to development
The growing interest in sports is another indicator of the country's aptitude for development. Cambodia has begun to see a generation that has taken an avid interest in their educations and future careers.
"Development is good for Cambodia," said Bunting, whose village got electricity only two years ago. "I would not have gotten a good education if it had not been for the foreigners who came to my village and started a school."
Though his parents were poor, uneducated rice farmers, Bunting studied development at Cambodia University and wanted to work with foreign organizations in the remote areas of the country to improve education and infrastructure. His talent for running was first discovered when he competed in a national competition in Phnom Penh several years ago.
Bunting is part of the growing number of youths who are becoming more socially aware in Cambodia.
"The days of the Khmer Rouge are over now, and the youth in Cambodia face different challenges, like how to become socially conscious and have a voice in the development of their country," said Long Kat, 35, the director of Youth for Peace in Cambodia.
While 50 percent of the country's population is under 25, and young people between the ages of 18 and 30 comprise more than 50 percent of eligible voters, they have only recently begun to engage in politics and their communities.
"Cambodia is not competitive in sports, education, or most jobs right now because we don't have any competition and little opportunity in the country," said Bunting. "But I think with the right support this could change."
Bunting said education and employment are the greatest concerns of his generation.
Investment in education
While both of these areas are projected to improve, some individuals remain skeptical of the many flaws that remain in the system. Investors pour in, but some intellectuals' wonder what exactly is being done to improve the educational system and how this will impact the alarmingly high rate of unemployment.
"I lived in Cambodia for five years in the early 90's," exclaimed Clodagh O'Brian, who worked for an NGO in the capital at that time. "The city has transformed with buildings, paved roads, and soon skyscrapers. But, what has not changed that much are the schools. I would like to know how much investment is going back in to education."
Reports of corruption and bribes in schools are common, and children have limited opportunities in the current educational system. Education is one of the areas that Yeo and Clayton claim will improve as a result of the incoming investments.
"You will see growth in some sectors of education," said Clayton, who has worked in Asia over 20 years. "For example, as investors build more hotels in the country, others may start to invest in hotel management schools and language schools. Cambodia will gradually produce more skilled English-speaking workers."
Despite the difficulties posed by the poor infrastructure and the many challenges he faces, Bunting remained optimistic about Cambodia's future. "Being an athlete and just trying to live in Cambodia is not easy," sighed Bunting. "But, I think in several years, it could get better."
"The important thing is not to win, but to take part," quoted Sambeth, who burrowed the philosophy from Baron Pierre De Cobertin, the President of the International Olympic Committee. "Instead of complaining about where Cambodia is we need to have a collective vision for where the country is going. Let's meet up again eight years from now and see where Cambodia and her athletes are."
August 23, 2008 Saturday
PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA'S prime minister reassured his Thai counterpart on Friday that he expects they will find a timely and comprehensive solution to their territorial dispute, which recently led the two neighbours close to an armed clash.
Mr Hun Sen told Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej in a letter that the two countries can solve their border imbroglio 'in a peaceful and amicable manner, as we continue to cherish our long lasting friendship and good neighbourliness'.
His views came in response to an Aug. 15 missive from Mr Samak.
The prime ministers exchanged the letters in their latest effort to restore good relations as the two countries have been pulling out most of their troops from a disputed frontier area near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple.
Tension in the area erupted on July 15 after Unesco, the UN's cultural agency, designated the Cambodian temple complex a World Heritage Site. Some Thais feared the temple's new status would jeopardise their claims to surrounding land.
Thailand and Cambodia have both long claimed land around the temple, which the World Court awarded to Cambodia in 1962.
The Unesco move triggered nationalistic sentiment in both countries, and both sides massed hundreds of troops in the area. The standoff saw weapons drawn once but no shots were fired.
In his letter to Mr Samak, Mr Hun Sen said he is optimistic that both countries 'will soon be able to put a definite end' to the problem of the land near the temple.
He added he is confident that future meetings between Thai and Cambodian officials 'will bring about a peaceful settlement to the border issues not only in the Preah Vihear temple area, but also the entire border region' between their countries.
Mr Samak said in his August 15 letter, received on Friday, that the two neighbours should work closely together 'to reach a mutually acceptable solution' to the border disputes.
'The Cambodian and Thai peoples should live together as good neighbours, sharing and celebrating similar traditions and cultures,' he said.
Cambodia and Thailand share a 500-mile (800-kilometre) border, much of which has never been clearly demarcated because the countries refer to different maps.
Cambodia uses a French colonial map demarcating the border, which Thailand says favours Cambodia. Thailand relies on a map drawn up later with American technical assistance.
Thai and Cambodian officials will hold a new round of troop withdrawal talks on Aug 29. -- AP
Written by Priyanka Bhonsule
Friday, 22 August 2008
French theatrical director Catherine Marnas uses a two-month residency in Phnom Penh to mount a new production of a classic story
THE momentous challenge of working with a Cambodian cast to stage a traditional Khmer tale is not lost on French theatrical luminary Catherine Marnas, but she is hoping to successfully combine the two cultures during her stay in Phnom Penh.
Marnas will be in residence at the French Cultural Centre until early October, producing a spectacle to be part of an international theatre festival featuring 12 companies from Cambodia, France, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.
"The idea is to take a basic Cambodian story and to combine it with French culture. This story is very, very old, and to mix it with modern theatre will be a shock," Marnas told the Post this week.
She had just come out of an exhausting day of nearly 30 auditions with young Cambodian students and more experienced actors alike, all performing pieces from Sorp Piseth, a traditional Khmer tale named after the lead character.
"The story is like a drama but there are comic scenes too, like a stupid man who can't make fire or boil water. It's physical comedy - his incredible stupidity - which is very international," she said.
Two years ago, Marnas did a similar project in China with Moliére's classic Don Juan, complete with a Chinese cast, using traditional Chinese opera style and opera make-up and costumes.
But the challenge here is that the culture and traditions are very different, and Marnas said she's "taking Khmer culture and French culture and trying to make this third thing."
"There was no written text, so every person acts it out differently," she said.
Bun Noch, who interprets between the Khmer actors and Marnas, affirmed that Sorp Piseth was a story that has been passed down orally but was now part of the school curriculum.
Marnas added that the underlying story will stay the same, but some changes would be made that she hoped the audience would accept.
"I think the most important thing in theatre is an open audience. I will be very happy if more open-minded people came to see the play," she said.
Marnas said auditions were to continue throughout the week.
"At the end of today, there were younger people, most with no experience. But sometimes, those with no experience can adapt really well," she explained. "But I don't like to choose people day by day because auditions can be cruel.
"Instead, all actors will spend a week studying theatre techniques and styles with Marnas.
"At the end of the week, I'll choose maybe about five for the play. But, even if they leave, they will have learned something."
The first performance is slated for October 3, with two shows in Phnom Penh and one in Siem Reap, leaving the crew about six weeks to rehearse.
The idea, said Marnas, would be to eventually make the project autonomous, so it could travel around Cambodia in 2009 without her direction.
Meanwhile, Marnas will be holding a talk on contemporary theatre at the French Cultural Centre on Thursday, August 28, at 6:30pm.
Written by May Titthara
Friday, 22 August 2008
Lower fuel costs encourage families to enlist their youngest members in bringing cheap petrol into Cambodia at the expense of school
BAYAB, Svay Rieng province - Of the 100 primary school students in this village near the border with Vietnam, 60 have abandoned their studies for an unlikely youthful past time: petrol smuggling.
"I'm doing this to help my family because we are poor," said 13-year-old Chen Chav, who said he can make 3,000 riels hauling three litres of illegal fuel by bicycle over 8km of dirt track and rice fields to the main market in Svay Rieng town.
Fellow smuggler Nary, 14, said he has been secreting petrol from Vietnam for about six months.
"Because of this I have difficulty studying and always missed school. Now, I've quit my studies to do this business," she told the Post on Tuesday.
"If I don't do this, I don't have enough money to pay for food," she said, adding that it is better for children to engage in fuel smuggling because they are less likely to be stopped by authorities, who usually demand large bribes from adults.
"If my mother or father goes to take it from the border, police and customs officers will arrest them and take the petrol," she said.
Surging global oil prices have pushed the price of petrol in Cambodia to record highs of around 5,600 riels per litre, encouraging smuggling from Vietnam, where government subsidies have kept fuel costs lower.
In the small villages dotting the border like Bayab, children have become the most likely mules, commune chief Nhoung Yenu said.
"More and more, the children have stopped going to school," he told the Post. Now we're going to have to persuade their families to encourage these kids to study.
"District Governor Uy Han said the problem of truancy was worsening, with parents often pushing their children into smuggling to supplement the family's income.
"We are trying to educate these families to stop their sons and daughters from smuggling petrol from the border and allow them to go to school," he said.
Cambodia's petrol prices are higher than in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos, which has fuelled a lucrative smuggling industry. Unlike its neighbours, Cambodia does not subsidise fuel or promote cheaper ethanol fuel through tax incentives.
The Phnom Penh Post
Written by George McLeod and Nguon Sovan
Friday, 22 August 2008
Petroleum distributors breathe a sigh of relief as Vietnam cuts fuel subsidies, causing smuggling to drop dramatically
PETROLEUM smuggling from Vietnam has plummeted, declining by about 80 percent since the Vietnamese government cut fuel subsidies in July, according to Vietnamese state media.
Vietnamese petrol is consistently cheaper than Cambodia's due to state fuel subsidies, but the Vietnamese government cut the subsidies by about 30 percent in July, narrowing the price gap between the two countries.
Viet Nam News reported that the government had closed petrol stations near the Cambodian border and encouraged them to close early to prevent nighttime border runs.
Heu Heng, vice president of Sokimex, Cambodia's largest petroleum company, said Tuesday that he couldn't estimate how much petrol was being smuggled from Vietnam, but said that his business had been damaged by the illicit trade.
"It's very good that smuggling of petrol from Vietnam is falling because this has cost Sokimex millions of dollars in the past," Heu Heng said.
Sokimex used to sell about 10,000 tonnes of petrol a month in 2007, he said, but sales had halved this year.
A decline in smuggling would translate into higher sales this month, Heu Heng added, but he was unable to predict the level of the increase.
Sokimex controls a 20 to 30 percent market share in Cambodia, with the remainder split between about 11 companies, he noted.
Bin Many Mialia, a fuel industry analyst in Cambodia, also confirmed that petrol smuggling was decreasing, but he wasn't sure by how much.
"The biggest decreases have been for diesel. The drop hasn't been as great for gasoline," Bin Many Mialia said.
Cambodia's petroleum distributors have long complained about smuggling cutting into their profits.
"We have brought this up with the government many times, but there has been no action," said Bin Many Mialia, noting that smuggling was also a problem on the Thai-Cambodia border, with petrol also slightly cheaper in Thailand.
Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, meanwhile, said that provincial government officials had to share the blame for smuggling.
"It's not being done by small-time operators - there are provincial leaders involved," Mu Sochua said. "It affects the national budget, and the state is losing millions of dollars every day."
Yim Pheang, chief of the Chrey Thom customs office along the Cambodia-Vietnam border in Kandal province's Koh Thom district, said that petrol smuggling through his jurisdiction had declined.
"We have been ordered by our superiors to prevent the smuggling," he said. "So far smuggling has declined," he said. "I estimate that 8,000-10,000 litres is smuggled through my area [every month]."
About 20,000 litres of fuel were confiscated last month, Yim Pheang noted.
Written by Theary C. SENG
Friday, 22 August 2008
We are the victims, perpetrators and heirs of 20th century's evil incarnate - maimed, broken both in body and spirit. Everyone of us. All 14 million of us. Many of us with blood on our hands. Thirty years on, we are still living in a land thoroughly soaked in blood - haunted by the cries of our dead, by what we did or were forced to do, by what we witnessed and our hellish experiences; we have done little to wash away this stain from our environment and in our hearts; we have paid scant attention to the destructive mentality - violence, fear, impunity compounded over these many years - it produces in ourselves and visitors individually and in society collectively.
This is how the world knows us. Just eavesdrop on the expat's conversations; consider their ulterior motives, meaningless deference, condescending act- ions, implicit and explicit pomposity and superiority, sophisticated manipulations; ponder the humility, patience and compassion of those who visit prisoners, care for trafficked girls and AIDS/HIV-infected patients; admire the courage of those who raise awareness through films and other forms of media of human rights abuses, environmental destruction, sexual exploitation, impunity, injustices.
This is how we know ourselves. Look into the eyes of any Khmer; read the expressions on our faces; listen carefully to what we say; feel the fear, mistrust and mistreatment we have toward each other and of/by the authority; think of the self-hatred as reflected in the way we treat the most vulnerable, disregard human life, hide behind and chase after materialism, decadence, superficiality over substance and depth. Consider the greed, the selfishness in the frantic, furious grabbing of land, the heartless selling and degradation of persons.
I hear often negative superlatives attached to our current society - how it is the most vulgar, most degenerate, most cruel toward their own people, most violent, most racist, most materialistic and superficial, most shameless, most petty, most laden with gossips, backstabbing, etc.
This is our Khmer legacy. We can deny it, or pretend it doesn't exist. We can hide it by dressing it up with pretty roads, pretty buildings, pretty clothes, pretty phones, pretty cars - with all the pretty bling-bling things of modernity.The reality remains; the blood stains are still with us; the dark mentality continues to guide us.
Do we remain indifferent and vaguely hope for change - that our society would miraculously change from one of fear to courage, impunity to justice, vulgarity to decency, violence to peace - with no efforts on our part? Yes, if we are uncaring and delusional.
How then shall we live?
The answer is not magical but practical; the answer is not unknown to us, but requires us to move from lip service to courageous action. How, then, shall we live? We must return to first principles.
Courage is not inevitable. Justice is not inevitable. Wis- dom is not inevitable. Decency is not inevitable. Neither are peace, love, excellence, free- dom, perseverance, character.
Each requires hard work - deliberate, persistent, persevering, humble, passionate work. And it must start with each one of us - Theary, Sophea, Chan- than, Chantha, Seila, Chariya, Cheat, Chhay, Dara, Sen, Vann- ath, Kheng.
The answer to fear is not more fear, but courage. We receive justice not by analyzing, witnessing, engaging in injustice, but by giving justice. We are noble not through superfluous, long empty titles, but by living with dignity and bestowing dignity to all, especially on the most vulnerable. Excellence is not had by sloth, envy but by training, perseverance, dedication.
How then shall we live? We want to live well. We shall live well. What does "living well" look like? We must focus on and bring about the four ideals of the ancient world - Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Unity - which address the four dimensions to life - the intellectual, the aesthetic, the moral, and the spiritual (in the sense of being connected to a purpose larger than ourselves). Where there is truth, where there is beauty, where there is goodness, and where there is unity, we Khmers of the globalized, porous world of 21st century, traumatized by the 20th century evil incarnate, may live well. (See www. csdcambodia.org "Voice of Justice Program - Leadership:To lead is to serve", Dr. Mark Strom).
Everyone of 14 million of us has an important role to play in living well. But I'd like to single out and plead with four influential groups of individuals:
Elected Leaders: Please, be our role models - full of character, justice, imbued with humility and genuine nobility. Be our model of compassion for the vulnerable, the weak, the widows and orphans - this being the hallmark of a great society.
Civic Leaders: Please, be our role models - of integrity, unity and humility.
Parents: Please, be our role models. Invest in our education; make sacrifices for the children, for the future.
Foreign Guests: Please, do no harm. You are greatly welcom- ed here. But, please, do no harm, intentionally or inadvertently.
We are a generation uniquely occasioned with an awesome responsibility and opportunity - to determine and shape the Khmer Rouge legacy, positively or negatively.
How then shall we live? Let us not live darkly. Let us live well. Let us live in truth, with beauty, with goodness, in unity. Let us live with a just peace - not only a peace defined as the absence of war, but peace that includes the presence of justice. Let us live in awe of life, with a respect for life. Let us live with grace and freedom.
Theary C. SENG
Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 22 August 2008
To become the 'Italy of Asia', Cambodia should preserve and promote all of its temples, not only its most famous ruin
CAMBODIA today is a politically small country, but in terms of culture Cambodia is the country with the richest resources in the region.
Cambodia could become the Italy of Europe. How? Well, the whole of Europe, but particularly Italy, has benefited - owes much of its development - to the income it makes from tourism. And how the tourism industry works in Italy is that even a small village is perceived to be, has been projected, as a tourist attraction.
Cambodia has renovated and targeted as a tourist attraction the great Angkor Thom, and there are maybe 50 temples inside the complex. But if you go into villages across Cambodia there are temples. UNESCO may not know, I may not know the name, but the villagers do, so now what is needed?
Cambodia could earn so much in the future if it is able to make all of Cambodia's temples into tourist destinations.
Even suppose you just want to go from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, there is Sambor Prey Kob in Kampong Thom and many other temples on the way, each with a unique and interesting history. Even within Siem Reap province itself, there are so many ruined temples, damaged, but still standing.
French scholars have catalogued 909 temples, but the whole of Cambodia has at least 2,000 temples, and each temple has a history.
Imagine somebody, a historian, travelling from Phnom Penh to Preah Vihear, stopping at temples all the way. They will need breakfast, dinner and accommodation.
The last four years I have only been interested in Angkor Thom, but now I am studying temples all over Cambodia. The idea is to try and learn the history of each of these small temples.
We know where some of the temples are, but we are traveling all over the country to find them, find the inscriptions, read them, write the temple history. Even sometimes when the inscriptions are broken, it is easy to read the story.
And I believe that it is this information, these stories, which could help Cambodia develop its temple tourism industry more.
Angkor is the dollar earner not only for Cambodia but for the whole of Southeast Asia. Cambodian policymakers need to understand this - I hope Cambodian policymakers can project Angkor in this light - Angkor needs to be linked to other tourist centers. In 10 years' time it will happen.
We have had a road rally from New Delhi to Angkor Wat in previous years. So we are moving fast to link India to Angkor.
But the most important thing is that we get villagers involved with the telling of the history of the temples, that they are able to read the inscriptions written by their ancestors.
We need to tell tourists the stories of the temples. But villagers I speak to often don't understand how the research I do could be applied, could be relevant to the tourism industry. I will explain.
Establish a small foundation to save all isolated temples that are decaying, which have interesting stories written on their walls.
This is not only to preserve their stories and the history of this country, but to preserve the future. Tourists will want to visit these temples.
With the small temples the idea is to protect the lives of the temples. You also create hundreds of small but beautiful sites of historical value which tourists will want to visit.
And preserving and opening up all these small temples would make Cambodia as a whole a more attractive tourism destination.
Cambodia is not only Siem Reap, temples are all over the nation, they are historically and economically valuable. They could be good sources of income. The only thing we must be careful about is the impact of the crowds.
Written by Chhay Chanyda
Friday, 22 August 2008
The widespread use of banned nets is hurting local subsistence fishermen who say their catches and profits are rapidly shrinking
AS much as 75 percent of fishermen operating in the waters off of Sihanoukville are using illegal nets and threaten to destroy sea life in the area, a rights group says, adding that many local fishing communities are suffering because of the rogue anglers.
"Normal fishermen cannot compete with those using illegal small-holed nets," said Chiep Sotheary, a coordinator for Adhoc in Sihanoukville.
She said nets with small holes were banned by the government because of the damage they cause to fish populations. "They cause a rapid depletion of natural resources," Chiep Sotheary said.
Fishermen using legal nets are struggling to survive because their hauls and profits are smaller and the cost of maintaining and fuelling their boats is high, she said, adding that "most of the illegal fishing is done by people from outside the province".
One local fisherman, Se Sok, said he is earning drastically less per day because of growing illegal fishing.
"[Illegal fishing] has doubled from last year," Se Sok said, adding that he could not count the number of boats using illegal nets.
Try Chhoun, an Adhoc coordinator from Kampot province, said the problem seems particularly troubling in Sihanoukville compared with other provinces.
"About eight out of 10 fishing boats in Koh Kyang are using illegal nets," she told the Post by phone during a trip to monitor the problem in Sihanoukville's Prey Nop district. "If there is no government intervention, the available natural resources in this area will decline."
Provincial officials are aware of the problem but have not been able to stop illegal fishing.
"We have not been able to take effective action to stop this," said Sun Saran, a fisheries official in Sihanoukville, adding that he faces "intervention from powerful people".
Governor Say Hak told the Post he was also aware of the high rate of illegal fishing in Koh Kyang. "We always take legal action and fine those who use illegal fishing nets, but many problems still exist," he said.
Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Friday, 22 August 2008
Despite an appeal by one of the accused that he is too young to go to prison, the court hands down prison terms of eight years
TWO teenage boys were sentenced to eight years in prison and fined US$2,000 after a closed hearing Thursday upheld a 2007 judgment accusing them of raping a nine-year-old girl.
Kheng Sieng Hay and Chim Pisei were accused of raping the girl near their homes in Kampong Cham province in 2006 when they were 14 and 15 years old, respectively.
The appeal, made in May by Kheng Sieng Hay's lawyer Ty Srinna, claimed her client was in fact 11 years old at the time of the rape, making him too young to serve a sentence according to a new criminal code that says minors under age 13 cannot be detained in prison.
"My client has admitted to raping the girl, but he was only 11 years old at the time, according to a family book and school-certified letter," said Ty Srinna of Legal Aid of Cambodia.
" It is very worrying that we have a society where a boy... can commit rape. "
But the court based its decision on accounts by relatives of the boys, who claimed they were 14 and 15.
"The book that states he is 11 years old is unacceptable because it was produce in order to get rice from their plantation," said Khun Kimlun, the victim's lawyer from Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW).
Chim Pisei was unable to appeal as his family could not afford a lawyer.
The father of Kheng Sieng Hay, Eng Kheng, said the decision was not fair.
"The court's decision is very unfair to my son because he was only 11 years old and I am very poor and cannot pay for the compensation.
"Ty Srinna said his age meant he was not responsible for his acts. "My purpose was for the court to reduce my client's penalty to five years because according to his age he is not responsible for his acts before the law.
"The victim's mother, Kin Roun, told the court the boys, who know her daughter, told her to come with them to collect resin from the rubber plantation when the rape occurred. "
The appeal court's decision is very just, and I can accept it for my client," she said Thursday.
Written by May Titthara
Friday, 22 August 2008
Municipal authorities say they plan to build a new community for scavengers who will find themselves homeless after authorities close the Stung Meanchey dump at the end of the year
GARBAGE collectors evicted from Stung Meanchey dump after the landfill is closed will be relocated to Kandal province under a plan to loan them small plots of land, Phnom Penh authorities say.
Municipal authorities have announced plans to close Stung Meanchey, which opened in 1962 as Phnom Penh's main dump site, calling it a blight on the rapidly-expanding capital.
The dump has swollen to a 17-acre expanse of smoking, decomposing trash, but remains a source of income for thousands of trash scavengers.
Two communities that include some 2,300 people - Damnak Thom and Toul Sen Chey - will be moved in November from their current location in and around the dump to Phsar Dek commune in Kandal province, said Pen Vandoeun, chief of the Damnak Thom community.
"We are helping them move because the people who live here do not own the land," he said.
"They face floods and bad smells from the dump, especially in the rainy season," he added.
He said four hectares was purchased in Kandal using a US$75,000 loan from Phnom Penh municipality. One 4.5m by 12m plot will be awarded to each of the 535 families, who will repay the cost of the land in monthly installments of $8.25 over a three-year period, he said.
"On this land, we will construct houses, a market, school and other infrastructure to help people do business," he said, without specifying how the construction would be funded.
"The land we have been given is very far away and it is difficult for us to find work there." said La Lin, a trash picker.
But another Stung Meanchey resident saw the move as an improvement. "I have always wanted to own land. I will be happy to live there," said Naroun, 72, a sack collector. "I think the standard of living will be better there," she said.
Phnom Penh Vice Governor Mann Chhoeun, who is also chief of the Urban Poverty Development Fund, said the move was necessary in order to reduce the number of poor living in the city. He added that the city has been relocating thousands of impoverished families since 2005.
"They will have to pay only 1,200 riels per day for the land," he said.
"They can do business there as moto taxi drivers or selling souvenirs to tourists since they will be near Oudong," he added.
Written by Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 22 August 2008
Fears charges may be too broad to convict on
KHMER Rouge tribunal prosecutors are to appeal the indictment of S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, who stands accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, saying the court order did not represent the full extent of his alleged crime.
The accused, also known as Duch, is the first of five Khmer Rouge leaders to be indicted for his role in the 1975-79 regime.
In a statement issued Thursday, the co-prosecutors claimed that while the closing order contained charges that may ensure Duch's conviction, it did not "charge Duch for his responsibility, as co-perpetrator, for a significant number of crimes that occurred as part of a joint criminal enterprise inside S-21".
The statement also claimed that the appeal was not broad enough to stand up in court, and would need to incorporate charges under Cambodian law as well as international law.
"The closing order omits to charge Duch under the Cambodian Penal Code of 1956, even if the ECCC statute grants the court jurisdiction over these crimes. Charges under that code would reflect Duch's complete criminal conduct, would advance domestic Cambodian Law and would be highly significant for the Cambodian people," the statement said.
The appeal adds another impediment to the prosecution of Duch, whose indictment heralded the end of a nine-month pretrial period.
Court spokesman Reach Sambath said Thursday that the court was not worried the appeal will delay justice. "They are exercising their right. We cannot put pressure on them," he said.
Written by Nguon Sovan and Sebastian Strangio
Friday, 22 August 2008
Shoddy construction means even Phnom Penh’s newest roads flood, with excess water damaging road surfaces and making them impassable
Newly constructed roads on the outskirts of Phnom Penh are deteriorating rapidly, according to local residents, who say hasty repair work and a lack of proper drainage are condemning them to a life of chronic wet-season flooding.
"Each time it rains, water flows into my house at knee level and it takes nearly the whole night to pump it out. There is no drainage, so it floods when the big rains come," said Top Srieng, 67, who lives along the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship highway (Hanoi Road).
The Hanoi Road, which runs 15km through Russey Keo district, was paved with bitumen about five years ago, but Top Sreing said that since last year approximately four kilometres of its length have been made unusable as a result of the lack of proper drainage and the constant passage of heavy vehicles that has seriously damaged the road's surface.
The damage was compounded, he said, by the fact that the construction company has taken shortcuts in repairing the road's natural wear and tear.
Whenever big holes form in the road, they bulldoze it, making the road lower and causing more water to settle in it," he said. "There are drainage materials scattered along the road, but it is likely there is no money left to construct [drains] because the construction workers seem to come and go," he said.
What causes the floods?
Nhem Saran, director of the Municipal Department of Public Works and Transport, said that Phnom Penh's problems with flooding stemmed primarily from the city's small, antiquated drainage system. The fact that some of the drains emptying into Boeung Trabek and Boeung Tumpun lakes were blocked up by lakeside residents compounded the problem, he said.
"Some drainage dikes are shallow so the water has no way to flow out, or can only flow out slowly," he added.
Nhem Saran said the Hanoi Road was repaired by David Construction Co, a private contractor, but that the company had failed to adhere to the government's road engineering standards, based on benchmarks from the United States and Australia, which mandate the installation of drainage systems.
"We advised the company to comply with the standards for building drains, but they ignored it - that's why the road is seriously damaged," he said. "I am writing a letter to City Hall to instruct the company about this.
"Khy Peuv, managing director of David Construction, said his company was awarded a US$3 million contract to repair the Hanoi Road three months ago, but that rain was holding up the construction.
"We have worked on the drains for three months, but due to the rain the work cannot go ahead. When it dries up we will continue," he said. "We expect to finish the installation of the drains within the next three months and then the road construction will be complete two months after that."
He added that the company normally built roads with tar, but since tar roads can not withstand water, the new road would be built with concrete. "Concrete roads cost more than tar roads, [but] last up to 15 years longer," he said.
But opposition lawmaker Yim Sovann said that whoever was in charge, municipal road construction suffered from widespread corruption and a lack of enforceable standards.
"Everybody knows about the corruption in Cambodia. Because of [corruption], they build roads and in one year they need to be repaired again," he said, adding that the government exercised little actual control over contractors.
"Cambodia gives a lot of its road construction to the engineering department of the military, where there are no standards, no quality control and no competitive bidding," he said. "Some are given to private companies, but there is [still] no mechanism for ensuring quality."
Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 22 August 2008
But opposition doubts fraud evidence will get fair review
SAM Rainsy Party officials said Thursday they doubted their election complaints would get a fair review as the Constitutional Council continued to examine the opposition's allegations of voter fraud stemming from last month's elections.
"We hope the Constitutional Council will resolve our complaint fairly, but we also recognise the possibility that it could just be going through the motions," party deputy secretary general Mu Sochua told the Post.
Mu Sochua on Tuesday delivered 20,000 thumbprints from disenfranchised voters to the council, which agreed to review the opposition's evidence of vote fraud after the National Election Committee dismissed their complaints on August 13.
SRP President Sam Rainsy, who said at the time that he filed the complaints as a matter of honour, was pessimistic that the council would make a fair assessment.
"I have no faith in the Constitution Council," he said. "We have come here to do our duty, but we know that [the Council] serves the ruling party."
The opposition claims that hundreds of thousands of names were left off voter registration lists, giving an unfair advantage to the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) in the July 27 polls. It also says that the CPP manipulated voter registration forms on election day, giving ineligible people the chance to cast ballots in its favour.
Council President Ek Sam Ol could not be reached for comment Thursday, but the Council's secretary general, Pit Taing San, told the Post that all complaints will be considered fairly. Under its charter, the Council must process all complaints within 20 days, and has said it would deliver its judgment before the announcement of official election results September 17.
Kong Samon, a lawyer for the SRP, said he feared the Council's judgment would be politically biased.
"If the [council] is under political pressure, we will have no hope for justice," he said.
Written by CAMILLA BJERRAKAER
Friday, 22 August 2008
Young residents of Phnom Penh take advantage of a break in the rain and the last light of the day to play a game of badminton in Hun Sen Park, in front of the Independence Monument.